Multilingual Glossary of Port Terminology from the author Dora Ribeiro


Liquid or any other material loaded or pumped into ships' holds or tanks to alter the draught or counteract a list.

Vessel which may be powered or not designed for carriage of many kinds of cargo (sand, sludge). When not powered can be towed.

Place assigned to a vessel in port when anchored or lying alongside a pier, a quay or a wharf, where it can embark/disembark load or passengers.

Place assigned in the pier, quay or wharf where pleasure or sports boats can anchor or berth.

Upright post, usually in iron, that on a quay (or on a ship's deck) is used for making ropes secure when ships are lying alongside the pier, a quay or a wharf.

Break-bulk cargo (or Break-bulk Conventional Cargo)
Cargo which is divided or separate regardless of whether it is packed or not.

Breaking bulk
Discharge a ship's cargo to shore according to a pre-established discharge plan.

Barrier designed and built out into the water serving to break the force of waves at a particular place. Provides artificial protection needed when a harbour is under construction in an exposed site to complete or complement that shelter. This structure is used only as a protection.

Bulk / container ship
Multi-purpose ship to carry bulk cargoes and containers jointly.

Bulk cargo
Cargo normally homogeneous, neither separable into countable units nor packageable in separate units.

Bulk carrier
Vessel designed to carry grains, ore or other dry bulks.

Car-carrying vessel
Vessel specially designed to carry cars and commercial vehicles. Operated through Ro-Ro systems.

Cellular vessel
Ship specially designed and equipped with cell guides for carrying and securing containers.

Chemical tanker
Vessel designed to carry chemicals in segregated tanks with separate pipelines to avoid contamination.

CIF (cost, insurance, freight)
Term of sale for goods in transit whereby the price paid by the buyer includes the insurance premium and the shipping charges.

Vessel employed in costal trade. It is generally small in dimensions.

Commercial port
Port aimed at commercial activities.

Unit for carrying cargo, generally fitted with lugs on brackets at each corner for lifting through specially designed equipment. It can take the form of a case, crate or tank and is specially constructed for door-to-door transport by sea, air, road or rail. Containers are built with harmonized dimensions as defined by ISO standards.

Container yard
Site in the vicinity of the pier/jetty where full and empty containers are received or delivered.

Stowing and carrying cargo in containers. In this process, handling is carried out with the help of cranes, gantry cranes, transtainers and travelifts all with hooking automatic devices.

Containerised cargo
Cargo conventionally stored in ISO containers.

Fixed cabin crane whose main structure is mounted on permanent or semipermanent foundations.

Cruising ships
Passenger ship operated for tourism purposes alone.

Enclosed seaport, or sheltering port, in which a system of basins may be referred to as dock.

Set of wheels to provide support and transport of containers with no power.

Depth of a vessel bellow the waterline measured upright to the lowest part of the hull, propeller or other reference points.

Vessel designed to keep channels clear to depth required for port approach and alongside berths.


Fishing harbour
Port specially designed to receive fishing ships and boats. It is equipped with all material needed for quick handling of all fishery.

Fixed crane
Fixed cabin crane whose main structure is mounted on permanent or semipermanent foundations on rails or tyres. May be gantry crane-type.

FOB - free on board
Cargo placed onboard a vessel by the seller at a port of shipment mentioned in the sales contract. The risk of loss or damage is transferred form the seller to the buyer, once the goods pass the ship`s rail.

Forwarding agent
Company or individual who, acting as an intermediate, dispatches goods for a client.

Free port
Port open to the loading/unloading of cargo imported from all over the world without payment of import/export duties.

Front-lift truck
A three, four or more wheeled mechanic vehicle designed for lifting, carrying and stowing cargo which can be loaded either onto pallets or carried by the truck's forks or with a spreader.

Gantry crane
Lifting machine mounted on a platform or structure, or even rails, spanning an intervening space. With fixed cabin. Specially designed for container handling in the port area.

General cargo (or Conventional Cargo)
General cargo conventionally stowed as unitized cargo (eg. crates) for further containerisation.

General cargo vessel
Conventional vessel designed to carry break-bulk cargo.

Inland commercial and industrial area linked to and served by a particular port.

International Maritime Organisation

Set of rules established by the International Chamber of Commerce for the interpretation of the main terms used in foreign trade contracts.

Intermodal transport
Cargo handling using two or more successive modes of transport.

International Organization for Standardization.

Projection of the sides of docks or harbours or rivers, alongside which vessels can be tied up for loading/unloading.


Liquid bulk
Liquid cargoes in bulk.

LNG tanker
Tanker designed to carry liquid natural gas.

LPG tanker
Tanker designed to carry liquefied petroleum gas.


Narrow aisle truck (Fork-lift truck)
Fork-lift truck designed for warehouse work and equipped with forks for frontal or lateral lifting of pallets.

Open storage area
Solid area surrounding the quay, free of any building. Used for installing container terminals and other backing facilities.

Panamax vessel
Vessel designed according to maximum dimensions permitting passage through the Panama Channel.

Passenger vessel
Vessel for more than twelve passengers. A "passenger certificate" is needed.

Re-entrance at a port for ships to berth according to water depth and ships' draught.

Structure built for ships berthing to carry out operation of embarking/disembarking passengers and goods.

Port of call
Port at which ships make their calls for loading/unloading cargo and embarking/disembarking passengers.

Port of transit
Port where both cargo and passengers landing are in international transit for different destination(s) without abandoning the port facilities.

Portal crane
One of the types of gantry cranes with vertical legs having sufficient height and width to permit vehicles or railroad equipment tp pass in between.

Structure built for ships berthing to carry out operations of embarking/disembarking passengers or goods.

Artificial inclined path which wheeled cargo vehicles and trailers may pass for the purpose of changing their elevation.

Reefer container
Temperature controlled container. Refrigeration can be supplied by installed or build-in units.

Research vessel
Vessel designed or converted for ocean survey/exploration or fishery matters.

River port
Port located on a river bank serving as shelter and berth for ships.

Ship in which the method of horizontal access is used through side or stern ramps. Vehicles can be loaded/unloaded by their own power; only a driver is needed.

Ro-Ro Ramp
Loading bridge fitted to Ro-Ro vessels.

Person or company who owns a ship or ships.

Term used for carriage of goods by sea. Establishes legal provisions which include the transport by sea, its regulations, ownership and employment and rights and liabilities connected with or growing out of them.

Shipping agent
A permanent representative for a shipping agent in a port who transacts all business in that port on behalf of the shipowners or characters

Storage system for dry bulk goods.

Solid bulk
Solid cargoes in bulk.

Sounding vessel
Vessel designed to chart seas and coastlines. Some of them are built to back oil exploration work.

Stacker crane / Reach-Stacker
Crane designed with spreader for hooking and stacking containers.

Time a ship spends in a port.

Loading cargo onboard and arranging it in the ship`s hold and tween decks according to a pre-established cargo plan.

The capacity in cubic feet of the spaces within the hull, and of the enclosed spaces above the deck available for cargo, spare parts, stores and crew divided by 100. Thus 100 cubic feet of capacity is equivalent to one gross ton. The value is expressed in Morson Tonnes.

Tank container
Container specially designed for the transport of liquids and gases. It can be equipped with heating or refrigeration devices.

Vessel designed to carry liquid bulks (chemicals, wine, orange, juice...)

Ship specially designed to carry oil crude.

Specialized facilities for container, cargo or passenger handling.

TEU (Twenty equivalent unit)
Measure of container capacity of a container ship. The figure is expressed in terms of 20 ft. units. A 40 ft. container would be expressed as 20 TEU.

A wheeled vehicle without own power unit to be towed by powered truck. Designed for transporting containers or other cargo.

Transfer of cargo from one side to another so that it may reach its final destination. The term is also used when cargo is transferred from one barge to another.

Transfer of cargo in transit from one ship to another with na intermediate stay on the quay so that it may reach its final destination.

Transit cargo
Cargo remaining onboard of a vessel at a port of call or stop for further destinations.


Vessel designed to assist larger vessels in berthing/unberthing operations. Can also make other tugging operations in different circumstances (eg. Ship without proper power…).

Turnaround of a ship
Time a ship spends in a port.



Building where goods are temporarily stored before being shipped or distributed within one country.

Water depth
Depth at which the piers, jetties or quays are dredged below the hydrographic zero to permit berthing of vessels and their free flotation. Readings are expressed in negative numbers.